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Socrates’ Request and the Educational Narrative of the Timaeus

Charles Ives

Timaeus is not an independent work. Rather, it is the premier dialogue in an unfinished trilogy that also includes, Critias, of which we have only a fragment, and Hermocrates, which is forecast in Critias but was presumably never written. There is demand, and has been for some time now, for an account of the relevance between the extant parts of the trilogy, namely the pertinence of Timaeus’ cosmology to Critias’ war story. Over time this demand has been refined. There is now a more specific interest in the relevance of the cosmology to what is commonly known as “Socrates’ Request”—i.e. what Socrates is asking of his interlocutors at the outset of the trilogy. While the author certainly addresses the former, more general demand, the primary concern is with the latter given the obvious aptness of Critias’ contribution. Socrates, at least in part, is asking for a story about a war, and Critias provides it. What is far from obvious is how Timaeus’ contribution fits into this picture.
In order to illuminate the nature of this contribution, the author first establishes that Socrates is asking for an encomium with two areas of focus which will be taken up by Critias and Timaeus. Again, Critias will speak on war and more precisely on the war between ancient Athens and Atlantis. Timaeus will speak on the warriors’ education as philosophers, and in particular, on the formation and nature of the philosophical soul. Showing the relevance of Timaeus’ speech to the request, then, involves highlighting the educational aspects of the dialogue, and much of the book is dedicated to this very pursuit. The author charts the progress of an educational program that aims at health. The focus is on the convalescence of intellect which ushers in discussions of the medical dimensions of Timaeus’ physics, the markedly Platonic project of becoming like god, and the comprehensively philosophical soul that leads its possessor to success on the battlefield.

This book is intended for those interested in ancient philosophy and philosophy of education.
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Lexington Books
Pages: 128Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4985-2850-4 • Hardback • May 2017 • $85.00 • (£54.95)
978-1-4985-2851-1 • eBook • May 2017 • $84.99 • (£54.95) (coming soon)
Charles Ives is lecturer at the University of Washington.
2. The Educational Program of the Timaeus in Outline: Medicine, Cause, and the Tripartite Structure of Timaeus’ Speech

6. Epilogue: Philosophy and the Warrior
Charles Ives’ Socrates’ Request is a clear and convincing explanation of the structure of Plato’s Timaeus as well as a persuasive argument that the education of philosophical warriors is a central theme of the dialogue. While making his case the author discusses many subjects of interest to students of the Timaeus, and his treatment of the relevant material is as thorough as it is intellectually stimulating.
Mark Anderson, Belmont University